Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Rolling Stones @ Twickenham Stadium, London

20 September 2003

Just recently a group of astronomers had detected that the stars themselves were dying out. We have long known that the glimmer we see in the night-sky is merely an echo of star-light, its generator, its life-force long since departed. But now, these astronomers say, the night-sky is already measurably dimmer than it once was. The fires that once illuminated the Earth will gradually disappear, leaving the planet to loom large revolving in an empty universe.

40 years (or is it licks?) and still they come.

Not even 30 years of relative creative sterility has dimmed the fascination. Not the bloated solo albums. Not the endless churn of the marketing machine that thought it was ‘funny turning rebellion into money’. Not the endless reproduction of that lascivious logo, now as familiar as a Coca-Cola can, and as indicative of quality content as the McDonalds arch.

The Rolling Stones Myth has veritably rolled into town. It’s a myth that every band dipping their grubby toes into what is still called rock ‘n’ roll desires for themselves. To bands, fans and the general public, the Rolling Stones offer the full five-course transcendence that was implicit in the original promise of rock ‘n’ roll. After all the hard knox and dirty sox, Jagger and Richards still remain defiant. If the lines in their face are beginning to form rivulets, they still fail to resemble your Grandador Dad. Somewhere in two lofts in deepest Dartmouth, their Dorian Grey portraits have rotted down to the frames.

And here they are. Keef, so often infamously sloppy onstage, draws out the intro to Brown Sugar. He doesn’t so much as saunter as stage, as sniff it out, ultimately acknowledging it as his natural habitat. The all-important riff, so familiar, appears re-energised. As Charlie, a rock drummer unafraid to leave spaces, takes his place behind the requisite functional kit, out comes Sir Michael Philip Jagger, still all lips and snake-hips, erupts into life. It was once said that if you placed Laurence Olivier in a room by himself, he would cease to exist, that only by indulging his art, by becoming someone else, he only really came to exist at all. It’s easy to believe that off-stage, Jagger lies limp (steady at the back there), waiting for Keef’s rifferama and Charlie’s back-beat to jerk him into life.

But through all the seemingly endless amount of irresistible classics, musical book-marks to the times from which they came, the commitment of the band to the material is impressive. Jagger himself behaves as if he is singing the words for the first time. On occasion, when his perpetual motion is reproduced on the huge screens that dwarf the stage, he really does look 30 years younger.

Its Only Rock ‘n’ Roll flexes with an elasticity the original slipshod studio concoction never possessed, but almost every song is delivered with a cock-sure confidence missing from much of the Stones’ recent recorded output. Highlights include the collapsable splendour of Tumbling Dice, the disco-king strut of Miss You, a surprisingly well-received Don’t Stop and against the odds, a Satisfaction that obliterates the tedious familiarity of that deathless track.

Slagging off the Stones for being over-the-hill is a pastime indulged in since the ’60s. In the ’80s, it became almost a national sport, before the likes of Primal Scream (support band here) made getting-up in Rolling Stones fancy dress cool for the ’90s.

But if we are all here to see the afterglow, the stars are still so bright, the earth remains small. Stay as you are.

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